(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

2022 General Election

What do we know so far? While the news is predominantly focused on national races, we are closely following the results here in Washington state. With an entirely vote-by-mail system in our state, it can take days to know the outcomes, especially if a large number of voters submitted their ballots on election day.

The Washington state Secretary of State has a website where you can track the results of federal, state and local races. The website notes when updated numbers are due to be released, voter turnout and the number of ballots counted as well as those left to be counted. County officials certify their results on Nov. 29 and the Secretary of State will certify final results by Dec. 8.

What are we watching? As a reminder, the current breakdown of the Washington State Legislature sits at 28 Democrats and 21 Republicans in the State Senate and 57 Democrats and 41 Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Roughly 24 hours after the release of the first results, here are the initial takeaways:

Tight Races. As of 5 p.m. Nov. 9, the tightest contests can be found in the following races:

  • 10th Legislative District, position one (Island County and parts of Skagit and Snohomish counties): Democratic challenger Clyde Shavers leads Republican incumbent Greg Gilday 53%-47%
  • 26th Legislative District (parts of Kitsap and Pierce counties): State Senate Democratic Incumbent Emily Randall holds a 52%-48% lead over Republican challenger Jesse Young and, to fill Rep. Young’s open House seat, Democrat Adison Richards leads Republican Spencer Hutchins 51%-49%
  • 42nd Legislative District (parts of Whatcom County): all of the Democratic candidates hold slim leads over their Republican challengers. State Senate candidate Democrat Sharon Shewmake is leading the incumbent Republican Simon Sefnik 51%-49%. In the House of Representatives position one, incumbent Democrat Alicia Rule holds a 52%-48% lead over Republican challenger Tawsha Thompson. And, finally, in the open House of Representatives position two race, Democrat Jim Timmons holds a 51%-49% lead over Republican Dan Johnson.

Vulnerable Incumbents. Initial results indicate four Republican incumbents may be vulnerable. This includes:

  • Republican Rob Chase in the 4th District (parts of Spokane County) is trailing his Republican challenger Leonard Christian 51%-47%
  • As noted above, Republican Incumbent Greg Gilday is trailing his Democratic Challenger in the House of Representatives position one seat
  • In the 39th District (parts of King, Skagit and Snohomish counties), Republican Incumbent Robert Sutherland is trailing his Republican challenger Sam Low by a wide margin of 55%-42%
  • Republican Incumbent Simon Sefnik, who was appointed to fill the term of the late Senator Doug Ericksen in the 42nd District, is trailing Democratic challenger Sharon Shewmake by 51%-49%

As more votes come in, these results could change.

Whatcom County Early Learning Initiative. Initial results show that the Whatcom County’s Children Initiative is failing 51%-49%.

Stay tuned for another “Notes” focused on election results.

Capital Gains Tax Status Update

The Washington State Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of a capital gains tax Jan. 26, 2023. Oral arguments will be held in Tumwater because the Temple of Justice, where the Court usually meets, is closed for a two-year renovation.

On March 1, 2022, Douglas County Superior Court judge Brian Huber ruled the capital gains tax unconstitutional. Following this action, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson asked the state Supreme Court to accept the case on direct appeal, to which the Supreme Court agreed.

On Nov. 3, Attorney General Ferguson filed a motion with the Supreme Court asking the Court to allow the state’s Department of Revenue (DOR) to start collecting the tax before the Court makes its final ruling. DOR is currently pursuing rule-making related to tax collections. The Court will consider the Attorney General’s motion at a conference on Nov. 29.

As a reminder, the capital gains tax is intended to provide significant funding for early learning and the Fair Start for Kids Act, specifically. This Start Early Washington resource identifies investments in the Fair Start for Kids Act that were initially supported with short-term federal COVID-19 dollars with the intent for capital gains tax revenue to serve as the funding source once the short-term federal funds conclude.

Fair Start for Kids Act Resource

As we prepare to enter another two-year budget development process (one with a tightening fiscal picture), Start Early Washington put together a resource laying out which budgetary components of the Fair Start for Kids Act are laid out in statute and which are deemed “subject to appropriations.”

It is important to remember the funding of all policies is ultimately determined through the budget process, and while it is preferable to have specific funding levels set out in statute, the Legislature can change statute to fund at a different level – or not at all.

This resource breaks down which parts of the Fair Start for Kids Act are in statute, which are subject to appropriation and what this all means.

State Budget Preparations

Our last couple of “Notes From Olympia” have focused on summarizing the budget requests (known as decision packages) submitted by the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to the Governor’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) for inclusion in the Governor’s budget. Additional resources are available through DCYF’s Government Affairs webpage which has been updated to include summaries of some of the agency’s decision packages.

Staff at OFM are busy reviewing and building the Governor’s budget which is expected to be released around mid-December. The state’s next revenue forecast will be released Nov. 18. The status of the state’s revenue picture will impact what is (and is not) included in the Governor’s budget proposal. The last revenue forecast in September projected a sharp decline in available revenue for the upcoming 2023-25 biennium. Many eyes will be on the Nov. 18 revenue forecast to see if the projection continues to decrease.

On Nov. 4, the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council met to receive an economic review from the state’s economist, Dr. Steve Lerch. Not surprisingly, most of Dr. Lerch’s report focused on concerns about the potential for an upcoming recession and the impacts of high inflation on our state’s economy.

Legislative Committee Days

Each year in late November/early December, the Legislature holds “Committee Days,” where members of the existing committees meet and hold work sessions on issues likely to garner attention in the upcoming legislative session. The event is timed to occur before the “legislative session freeze” commences, wherein elected officials are barred from fundraising. This means that committee days also include a hearty number of evening fundraisers.

This year, the Senate and House of Representatives are scheduled to meet Dec. 1 and 2 in person, and the two days are jam-packed with legislative committee work sessions. I view this as a test to gauge how ill-prepared I am for a return to walking on marble, dressing professionally and being social for an extended period of time. (High likelihood I will fail this test.)

Of note for early learning, the House Children, Youth and Families Committee will hold a work session at 1 p.m. on Dec. 1 focusing exclusively on early learning recruitment issues. Also on Dec. 1, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will hold a work session at 3:30 p.m. that looks at the state’s revenue and economic picture as well as implementation of the state’s COVID-19 recovery plan including a segment on how child care providers utilized stabilization funds. Finally, the first will also include a work session for the House Appropriations Committee that includes a 2023 Session Budget Preview.

While Committee Days will see a return to in-person work, TVW will continue to stream all the committee meetings, so you can catch them live or by accessing the media archives at tvw.org. It is important to note that unlike committee hearings, work session presenters are by invite-only, so the public cannot testify during these committee day activities. However, when the legislative committees pivot to bill hearings come January, public testimony will be back, and work is underway to continue to incorporate the availability of virtual testimony.

Child Care Center Coming to Capitol Campus

This fall, the state’s Department of Enterprise Services announced it selected KinderCare Learning Centers to operate the second child care center in Olympia to serve state employees and their families. Located right across from the Capitol campus at Maple Park Avenue SW and Capitol Way South, the center hopes to open soon and will serve children from six weeks to five years old.

I saw the center recently in Olympia and it looks ready to welcome children!

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Ahead of Illinois’ midterm and gubernatorial elections next month, in a recent survey, voters across the state made it clear that they want to see increased attention towards early childhood services. In fact, the vast majority of survey respondents believe that investing in early childhood education and care is a good use of taxpayer dollars – and most would even be willing to pay more in taxes to fund it.

Start Early conducted this latest survey on behalf of state advocates to measure the level of support for early education among voters. The results were unequivocal – Illinois voters value early childhood education and care and want to see government action.

Eight in 10 voters say investing in early childhood education and care is a good use of taxpayer dollars. Among key groups like Black voters (55%) and those in Chicago’s suburbs (53%), a majority believe it to be a very good use of tax dollars. A majority of voters (56%), including nearly 75% of Black voters, went even further to say they are willing to pay a little more in taxes if it meant the state had better services for families with young children.

While partisanship continues to divide voters in many other policy areas, the survey’s findings also demonstrated that the early childhood education and care discussion goes far beyond political lines: 90% of Democrats, 73% of Independents and 70% of Republicans support government action and investment in early childhood programs and services.

Home to approximately 800,000 children under age 5, Illinois has a prominent history of investing in early care and education, spanning four decades under leadership of both Republican and Democratic state administrations. As the state prepares for its midterm elections, most timely is the survey’s bipartisan finding that most voters (70%) would feel more favorably towards a candidate who prioritizes an increase in funding for early childhood services.

“While Illinois has long been at the forefront of early learning and care innovations and investments, our system, like that of most states, has its challenges and real shortcomings,” Start Early Vice President of Illinois Policy Ireta Gasner says. “Without decisive action by our elected Governor and state legislators, critical components of the system will collapse – leaving countless young children and those who care for them behind.”

Decades of research have proven that quality early childhood programs can help break the cycle of poverty for generations to come and can change the trajectory of a child’s life toward healthy development and success. Yet, families – particularly those in communities left under-served – continue to face impossible challenges in accessing such early learning experiences.

As Illinois works to mitigate these challenges, often brought on by systematic inequities, voters reported that funding services for children experiencing homelessness and for children with disabilities or developmental delays should be priority focus areas of the state. Voters also ranked early childhood services as the second most important way to address the root causes of crime, a traumatic reality for far too many young children.

Start Early and its advocate partners across the state are passionately working to advance transformational change of the early childhood system in order to reach families and those who provide early learning services. This powerful survey data reaffirms that Illinois voters share advocates’ desires, and offers policymakers a renewed opportunity this upcoming legislative session to redouble efforts to make early learning a reality for all young children.

Conducted in partnership with Global Strategy Group, the survey of 609 registered voters in Illinois took place between September 8 – 12, 2022, and an intentional focus was placed on ensuring diverse demographic and geographic representation among voters. Interviews were conducted over the phone and text to web.

Key Findings:

  • A majority of overall voters say early childhood education and care is a good use of taxpayer dollars.
    • Eight in ten voters say investing in early childhood education and care is a good use of taxpayer dollars.
    • Among key groups like Black voters (55%) and those in the Cook suburbs (53%),a majority believe it to be a very good use of tax dollars.
    • Taking action and using taxpayer dollars to invest in early childhood education and care garners bipartisan support across the political spectrum with 90% of Democrats, 73% of Independents, and 70% of Republicans believing it is a good investment.
  • Most voters are even willing to pay more in taxes to fund early childhood and care services.
    • A majority of voters (56%) say they are willing to pay a little more in taxes if it meant the state had better services for families with young children, including nearly three-quarters of Black voters (72%).
    • Half of voters believe the state government is not spending enough on services for young children and their families, even higher among parents (54%), especially parents of color (52%).
  • Voters believe elected officials are not talking about or focused enough on early childhood services.
    • Half of voters believe their elected officials are not talking enough about early childhood services (52%) and believe they are not focused enough on the issue (53%).
    • This is especially true of key groups like Independents, of whom two-thirds (68%) believe their elected officials are not talking enough about the issue.
    • Similarly, parents of those under the age of six overwhelmingly believe elected officials are not talking about (67%) or focused enough (66%) on early childhood services.
  • According to voters, the state government does not do enough to help new parents and families meet their responsibilities.
    • About half of voters overall believe the state government is not doing enough to help new parents and families.
    • This increases to nearly two-thirds of voters of color (65% of Black voters and 66% of Hispanic voters).
  • Support for this issue goes beyond party lines and has widespread support: 80% of Democrats, 58% of Independents, and 51% of Republicans want the state to fund programs aimed at making childcare more affordable
  • There are many other specific services or programs related to early childhood that share support from a majority of the electorate.
    • Helping those who face the steepest challenges, like homeless children and those with disabilities, is extremely popular across partisan lines.
    • Even 69% of Republicans believe the state should be doing more to fund services to care for children who are homeless and 75% of Independents also feel the same way.
  • Early childhood services are seen as a way to address crime.
    • Illinois voters are concerned about crime (32% rank it as their first or second most important issue) and want to prioritize addressing the root causes of crime early in children’s lives (60%), over short-term actions like tougher sentencing.
    • Addressing root causes are prioritized across the board, including independents (55%) and those in the collar counties (60%).
    • Providing early childhood services ranks second as the most important way to address these root causes.

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Our Capitol Ambassador Ollie eagerly awaits the return of people.
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

As we get further into fall, we see an uptick in activity that will influence the 2023 legislative session. Of course, one of the biggest influencers will be the Nov. 8 General Election and the subsequent leadership and legislative committee assignment decisions. Be on the lookout for a detailed analysis of upcoming changes following the election. In the meantime, this edition features timely updates.

Legislative Work Sessions

As part of the gear-up for the 2023 legislative session, legislative committees held a number of work sessions in the last few weeks. An interesting aspect of the preelection meetings is they include the sitting lawmakers, some of whom may not be returning in 2023.

Senate Ways and Means Committee

On Sept. 27, the Senate Ways and Means held the first in-person committee meeting since March 2020. I think it would be fair to say both lawmakers and audience members were excited to be back together.

Among the agenda items was a presentation by State Auditor staff regarding the audit of the state’s receipt and usage of federal dollars. It is not a surprise to see this review given that the state received billions of federal dollars to address pandemic-related items.

Of note for early learning, the State Auditor representatives discussed their finding that $293.2 million of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funds were “unauditable” due to the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ accounting practices which limited the State Auditor’s ability to access the level of detail needed to determine if funds were spent appropriately.

Following the State Auditor staff’s presentation, DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter responded (starting at around 1:30), noting that DCYF’s current Information Technology system needs an update to provide the level of detail required for more detailed auditing. Importantly, Secretary Hunter emphasized that DCYF did not receive any significant findings related to eligibility determination.

Secretary Hunter committed to working with the State Auditor; his agency submitted a decision package to provide the Information Technology investment needed to support the requested level of accounting detail.

House Children, Youth and Families Committee

On Oct. 11, the House Children, Youth and Families Committee held a work session focused on:

Each of the presentations linked above contain excellent background and data on the various programs, and the meeting video is worth a watch. The work session highlighted not only general confusion over the varying goals and target populations for the programs, but also the challenge for families in securing needed supports and care. We can expect these conversations to continue into the legislative session.

Joint Committee on Employment Relations

You are probably wondering why an early learning related newsletter includes an update about a rather obscure legislative committee related to state employment. I actually have a good answer for that!

The Oct. 13 meeting of this Joint Committee received an update detailing the estimated costs and themes of the various collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). This bargaining not only involves state employees but also includes higher education employees, state and K-12 education health care expenses and non-state employee groups of family child care, adult family home and language access providers. These collective bargaining agreements will be included in the 2023-25 biennial budget and with the state’s revenue picture tightening (See Sept. 29 Notes From Olympia), the price tag of these agreements will impact the availability of funding for other investments.

In short, the estimated costs of all the CBAs totals $2.24 billion, with $1.401 billion of that amount from the state General Fund. Like nearly every other sector, state government is challenged to recruit and retain its broad and diverse workforce. These agreements aim to address staffing shortages – especially in high priority areas such as hospitals, ferries and state institutions – by providing overall wage increases, various retention bonuses and premium pay/lump-sum payments for employees working in institutions and other high-risk positions.

Family Child Care Providers. As noted above, the state also bargains with Family Child Care providers and that agreement totals $217 million from the state General Fund to support 3,612 providers. This agreement increases the cost-of-care rate to $2100/month for providers accepting subsidy; increases the Working Connections Child Care subsidy rate to the 85th percentile of the 2021 market rate survey; removes the cost of background checks; and increases the hourly rate for Family Friend and Neighbor providers from $3.00 to $3.85 as of July 1, 2023 and up to an hourly rate of $4.00 on July 1, 2024.

What Comes Next? Following the November Economic and Revenue Forecast, the Director of the Office of Financial Management will make a “financial feasibility determination” (meaning – can the state afford these agreements?). After that decision, the agreements will be included in the Governor’s proposed budget, and then the decision moves to the legislative arena. Note that collective bargaining agreements are given an “up or down” vote. This is one of the few areas where the Legislature does not negotiate nor get the opportunity to make changes.

Minimum Wage Increasing January 2023

On Sept. 30, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries announced the hourly minimum wage will increase to $15.74 as of January 2023. This represents an hourly increase of $1.25, or 8.66%.

The 2016 initiative approved by Washington state voters calls for the Department of Labor and Industries to adjust the hourly minimum wage based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. With this increase, Washington will have the highest state minimum wage in the country.

Updated Summary of Decision Packages

Start Early Washington recently updated its summary document detailing early learning related decision packages submitted to the Office of Financial Management for consideration in the Governor’s 2023-25 biennial budget. The update includes a $5.046 million Capital Budget request from the Department of Commerce to support facility costs for early learning programs at six school districts. Our Sept. 30 Notes From Olympia contains more detail on the decision package process.

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Each year the Illinois General Assembly passes legislation that can have an impact on families, or the organizations in our communities providing early childhood or related supportive services to families. Start Early leads on some of these legislative changes, often in coalition with others, and in other cases we contribute our early childhood lens and expertise to support the efforts of another lead organization. The 2022 Legislative Summary provides a listing of those bills that became law in the spring 2022 session that we thought would be relevant to families with young children and the field.  We hope that this is a resource you will download and share with colleagues and families alike. We are happy to provide additional information about any of these initiatives or connect you with other advocates where needed. Initiatives that were led by Start Early are marked *. 

The 2022 Illinois Policy Accomplishments report details progress we helped the state achieve toward advancing our Illinois Policy Agenda. In some places, Start Early may have led a charge, in other places we contributed research and advocacy to help advance shared goals of many stakeholders. While many challenges remain to be solved in our fragmented early learning system, this year’s report details the many ways that tangible progress is being made to improve the experience of families and children and providers.

2022 Illinois Policy Accomplishments

Download Our Accomplishments Document

In Illinois, Start Early engages on a variety of topics of importance to the well-being of expecting families, infants, toddlers, their families and professionals who support their healthy development.

Advocating with state agencies, elected officials, and working in partnership with providers, fellow advocates and parents, we work to advance our Illinois Policy Agenda. Work is currently underway for a refresh of our policy agenda to reflect our priorities for the next four years. More updates to come on this exciting work underway at Start Early.

We are excited to publish and offer two new resources relating to policy changes and progress toward longer-term changes that were achieved in Fiscal Year 22.

Fisal Year 2022 Legislative Summary

Noteworthy developments in early childhood policy in Illinois

Learn More

Fiscal Year 2022 Illinois Policy Team Accomplishments

Advancements of efforts represented in our Illinois Policy Agenda

Learn More

One key to our work is that we not only work to pass laws and increase funding, but we also follow-up on those changes and engage on the decisions made by our state agencies as they implement early learning and related programs. We achieve this through advising on implementation of new ideas or program changes, recommending priorities for funding, both in work directly with state agency leaders and at key advisory bodies like the Early Learning Council and Child Care Advisory Council, among others. We share our priorities and undertake policy analysis research and recommendations to support the state in advancing more equitable opportunities for families to access early education and the related services so critical to healthy child development and strong families.

We hope that these documents help early childhood programs, other community-based organizations serving families and anyone else who values these kinds of services and support to become more aware of changes that were passed or implemented in the past fiscal year.

As work is already underway on the current Fiscal Year, including planning for the upcoming spring session of the Illinois General Assembly, and as we develop our next multi-year policy agenda, we look forward to keeping you posted.

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The Capitol campus on a gorgeous September morning.
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

A Reminder …

Start Early Washington publishes “Notes From Olympia” periodically throughout the legislative interim. This edition focuses on recently released state agency “decision packages,” a state revenue update and workforce challenges.

State Agency Decision Packages

Each September, state agencies submit decision packages detailing budget requests to the Governor’s Office of Financial Management (OFM). These decision packages (or “DPs” as commonly known) are used to build the Governor’s proposed budget that will be released in mid-to-late December. See Start Early Washington’s August 25, Notes From Olympia for further discussion on the DP process.

OFM established a dedicated website where every agency DP can be downloaded. Unfortunately, this website is clunky at best, and downloading each DP can be extremely time consuming (my grumbling may have been heard statewide).

Thankfully, the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) has been transparent about their DPs. They have held multiple stakeholder feedback sessions as their DPs were under development as well as a webinar to answer questions once the DPs were uploaded on the OFM website.

A full summary of the DPs most relevant for early learning issues is on our website. A few items of note:

  • Looking across the variety of state agency DPs (broader than early learning), common themes emerge. These themes include advancing equity, providing direct funding to BIPOC-led organizations, targeted support to BIPOC and rural communities and increasing support to families (particularly in substance use disorder treatment services) to prevent out-of-home placement in the child welfare system.
  • State law requires the adoption of four-year balanced budgets, so many of the DPs not only include requested spending for the upcoming 2023-25 biennium, but also for the subsequent biennium for state Fiscal Years 2025-27.
  • You may find that not all the numbers add up perfectly in the finalized DPs, and that’s okay.
  • DCYF organized many of their DPs into themes (e.g., Prevention, Child Care Access and Affordability), so their number of DPs is smaller than most other state agencies, but the grouped DPs often contain a larger number of requests. DCYF’s early learning budget requests total more than $1 billion in new funding for the 2023-25 biennium.

As the DP list is so long this year, we’ve summarized an analysis on our resource page. If you have a deep interest in a particular item, I recommend reading the DP as they include cost modeling and further explanation and detail. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or would like help navigating OFM’s unwieldy website.

State Revenue Update

On Sept. 21, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Council met to receive an update on the latest revenue figures from the state’s economist Dr. Steve Lerch.

In the current 2021-23 biennium, revenue is projected to exceed the June forecast by $43 million, bringing the 2021-23 budget to $65.999 billion.

For the upcoming 2023-25 biennium that begins July 1, 2023, revenue is projected to decline from the June forecast by $495 million. Even with this projected decrease, the 2023-25 budget is projected to exceed the 2021-23 budget by $2.313 billion, with a projected biennial budget of $65.504 billion for 2023-25.

You may be asking, what is contributing to the slowing revenue? It comes down to three primary challenges:

  1. Decreasing personal income is leading to slower retail sales.
  2. Washington construction is slowing at a rate faster than projected.
  3. Interest rate hikes are slowing real estate activity, impacting real estate tax collections.

Finally, there was apparently a significant Board of Tax Appeal decision that reduced expected revenue in 2023-25 by $117 million.

A reporter asked the Governor’s Budget Director David Schumacher how the slowing revenue projections would impact the budget Governor Inslee will release in December. Director Schumacher responded by noting the Legislature left a healthy reserve that should help mitigate the blow of federal stimulus dollars concluding.

Per state budget documents, the Legislature left an ending fund balance of $789M for the 2021-23 biennium and $83M for the 2023-25 biennium. Additionally, of the $4.428 billion the state received and deposited into the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund (CSFRF) in the State Treasury, $3.151 billion was appropriated ($1.0 billion in the transportation budget; $400 million in the capital budget; and $1.75 billion in the operating budget). The remaining $1.277 billion was not appropriated and remains available for use.

The next revenue forecast will be released Nov. 18. These numbers will inform the Governor’s budget.

State Employee Workforce

The word of the year is workforce, particularly in the health and human services sectors. Looking through the agency DPs, you can see efforts to increase contracts and provide wage adjustments to help with staffing critical jobs ranging from child care to ECEAP to nursing home staff to behavioral health staff.

At the Sept. 15 DCYF Oversight Board meeting, DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter discussed his agency’s efforts to address recruitment and retention. (Secretary Hunter’s remarks begin around the 2:00 mark). He noted this is a challenge crossing all state agencies as they face competition from the private sector, with compensation being the largest barrier. Secretary Hunter acknowledged this workforce issue extends to DCYF’s contracted partners.

For DCYF, Secretary Hunter noted the emotionally and physically difficult work in all its programs, especially with the acuity of youth served in juvenile rehabilitation. A particular challenge for state agencies is in the Information Technology (IT) sphere, with the average age of state employee IT staff exceeding 50 years of age. IT is an area where the private sector is more lucrative.

Secretary Hunter also noted the importance of offering a career pathway for his agency’s employees and highlighted the magnitude of change the agency employees have undergone, starting with the creation of the new agency, navigating a pandemic and implementing multiple new laws and policies.

A few days after Secretary Hunter’s presentation, the Spokesman Review reported on a tentative deal between the state and its largest public employee union, the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE). The agreement includes a 4% wage increase in SFY 23 and a 3% increase in SFY 24, a $1000 bonus for receiving a COVID-19 booster shot and a $1000 retention bonus for current employees who stay employed on July 1, 2023.

While no cost estimate has been made public yet, WFSE said this is the largest compensation increase in the union’s history. But, first, the agreement needs to be approved by the state and the union, and then it will go to the Legislature, where an up or down vote would approve it. This is one of many Collective Bargaining Agreements the state is negotiating.

I raise this agreement because it will likely result in a significant price tag and, with slowing state revenues, competition for resources will be great. The policy question of workforce may be THE issue facing lawmakers when they gather in Olympia on January 9, 2023. Without people to perform mission critical work, the state will be challenged in serving Washingtonians in many areas.

What Will the 2023 Legislative Session Look Like?

While there has not been formal communication about the structure of the 2023 legislative session, we will likely see a return to in-person campus activity with continued ability to participate virtually.

The House of Representatives sent out communication last week stating that its December committee meetings will be in-person, with its hearing rooms equipped for hybrid participation and the Senate is holding work sessions this week from hearing rooms (with hybrid participation).

More to come …

Hello from my friend Ollie. He gets very happy when his human takes him for walks on the Capitol campus. He’s kindly offered to show us interesting spots when trivia resumes in January. (Photo Credit: Ollie’s mom, Pam Toal)

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Next week, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is holding the first 2 of 3 fall budget hearings, the first step in determining next year’s proposed education budget for the state. These hearings provide the early childhood advocacy community an opportunity to help shape the state’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal. Please consider participating *virtually or in-person* in requesting a 20% increase in state funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG).

Here’s how you can participate in the ISBE budget hearing process:

  1. Visit ISBE.net/BudgetRequestForm, and enter your name and contact information.
  2. Choose the hearing you’ll attend or select the option for submitting a written testimony. Written requests must be received by ISBE no later than Oct. 26.
  3. Under the “Add Program Request” drop-down menu select “Early Childhood Education”
  4. Enter $119,627,620.00 under the “Additional Requested Funding” section.
  5. Under the field that begins with “Please provide the Board with a description of your funding request,” you will need to put further detail on the 20% ask.

Upcoming Budget Hearings:

  • Oct. 4, 4-7 p.m. CT (Virtual)
    Registration deadline is Sept. 29
  • Oct. 6, 4-7 p.m. CT (In-Person, Springfield)
    Written funding request must be turned in by Oct. 4
  • Oct. 24, 4-7 p.m. CT (Virtual)
    Registration deadline is Oct. 20

Register Now

Contact us if you plan to testify or have questions. Thank you for speaking up for children and families across the state!

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The City of Chicago began its annual budget engagement in July, and the preliminary budget priorities presented to the public the last few weeks lacked any mention of investments in early care and education. After the elimination of investments in early learning from the federal reconciliation package, Chicago is left with no choice but to increase local investment to live up to its promise of being a world-class, culturally vibrant city that celebrates its diverse communities and values its families and children, Chicago’s future leaders. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the economic well-being, health, and development of children and now is the time to double down on our efforts to support Chicago’s children and families as we continue to navigate through a time of recovery and rebuilding. That’s why a growing coalition of providers, advocates, and families are calling on the city to invest more in these critical programs and services.

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Stay up to date on early childhood policy issues and how you can take action to ensure more children have access to quality early learning and care in Illinois.

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Building on last year’s advocacy, a group of 23 organizations who advocate for and serve thousands of families across Chicago sent representatives to the Mayor’s three budget engagement forums this summer and penned a letter to the Mayor and City Council outlining a set of shared budget recommendations for 2023. Comprehensively, our collective recommendations urge investment of additional funds in the early care and education system that supports families with young children in Chicago. These organizations contend that families with young children and the programs that provide them with essential services are still struggling and/or recovering from the pandemic, so now more than ever, adequate support and investments are needed.

Also central to these recommendations is the continued plea to address the early childhood workforce crisis. The city should increase funding for the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship, which receives far more applicants each year than there is funding to serve at a time when early learning programs all across the city are experiencing staffing shortages. The City should also consider innovative ways to invest in increased compensation for early learning and care workers – including center-based and family child care homes, Early Intervention professionals, home visitors and doulas. Washington, D.C. offers a solid example of investing in such professionals, where the city council recently approved a plan to send one-time payments between $10,000 and $14,000 to thousands of child care workers as part of an effort to raise wages.

While advocates have asked that the city continue its investment in infrastructure supports, such as the Chicago Early Learning hotline, community outreach efforts and the Chicago Early Childhood Integrated Data System, they want to see an increased commitment to providing resources necessary for managing the city’s complex system. This includes resources for leading and convening public-private partners to engage in the collaborative work of reaching every family with young children, and those who support them, in Chicago. This would require renewed commitment to the Every Child Ready Chicago initiative and reinvestment of funding for appropriate staffing levels in the Mayor’s Office, Department of Family and Support Services and Chicago Public Schools.

Investment in a strong system of early care and education supports for families is key to ensuring that children are ready to succeed in school and in life. Start Early, as well as our partner early care and education providers, advocates and families will continue to work tirelessly until these investments are realized in Chicago.

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As the largest federal investment in evidence-based home visiting services, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program (MIECHV) is a key pillar in the continuum of services and systems that strengthen the parent-child relationship and connect families to vital community resources to support long-term healthy development and well-being. The MIECHV authorizing statute – the law that describes and authorizes the distribution of federal funds to states, territories, and Tribal grantees by the federal government – expires on September 30, 2022. Now more than ever, advocates need to reach out to their Representatives to elevate the importance of the program in Illinois and urge Congress to reauthorize MIECHV before it expires.

In Illinois, MIECHV funds are critical to the state’s robust home visiting system, enhancing decades of local and state investments in home visiting services. MIECHV funds direct services for nearly 3,000 parents and children in Illinois annually. These high-quality home visiting services help families achieve stronger outcomes in maternal and child health, family economic self-sufficiency, and school-readiness domains.

MIECHV also strengthens the broader Illinois home visiting system by supporting high-quality training and professional development opportunities for home visitors and doulas, promoting coordination across the various funding streams that support home visiting, and supports innovative approaches to improve the ability of home visiting services to support families with child welfare involvement, families experiencing homelessness, pregnant and parenting youth in the care of the child welfare system, and other priority communities.

MIECHV has benefited from robust, bi-partisan support in Congress, including the leadership of Illinois’ Congressman Danny Davis (7th Congressional District) who has been a staunch advocate for MIECHV since the program’s inception in 2013 in his role as Chairman of the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has legislative authority over the program.

Over the past decade, the federal home visiting program has made a real, measurable difference in the lives of children and families in my community in Chicago and across the country, making sure that work continues and that we make the investment to bring these life-transforming programs to more families is a critical priority for me and my colleagues at the Ways and Means Committee this Congress.

- Illinois Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th Congressional District)
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Still, additional advocacy is needed to ensure every Member of Congress is ready to support MIECHV reauthorization. Key priorities for reauthorization are:

  • Pass an on-time, five-year reauthorization for the program
  • Increase funding by $200 million each year over five years, to reach more families and better support the workforce
  • Double the Tribal set-aside
  • Continue to allow virtual home visiting with model fidelity as an option
Keep the Pressure on Congress for a Timely Reauthorization

Your Advocacy is Needed

Here’s how you can get started:

Tell Your Lawmakers: Families Cannot Lose Critical Home Visiting Services

Make Your Voice Heard and contact legislators to help make a greater impact on families with young children across the country at risk of losing critical home visiting services.

Take Action Now

Amplify the Message on Social Media

Share posts from our MIECHV Reauthorization social media toolkit with your networks and follow Start Early’s Illinois Policy Team on Twitter @EarlyEdIL for the latest updates for advocates in the state.

View Social Toolkit

Schedule a Visit (Virtual or In-Person) with your Representative

Use the resources below to help you describe the impact of MIECHV in Illinois and why an on-time reauthorization is critical to families and children.

Resources to Support Your Advocacy

EMAIL OUR TEAM 

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*MIECHV data provided by the Health Resources & Services Administration. HRSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.